€60 million in funding has been announced for an European Innovation Partnership (EIP) project aimed at improving water quality in Ireland. The project, known as the Water EIP project, will involve collaboration between the Local Authority Waters Programme (LAWPRO), Teagasc, and Dairy Industry Ireland (DII) to work with farmers on an individual basis to enhance water quality. The Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine (DAFM) will provide €50 million in funding and technical assistance, with the aim of targeting 15,000 farmers in priority areas across the country. The support is co-funded by the National Exchequer and the EU under the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), and the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage will provide administrative support and €10 million in funding to LAWPRO.
The Water EIP project aims to improve water quality through the adoption of innovative practices in nutrient management, the application of nature-based Natural Water Retention Measures (NWRM), and other measures at farm level following the principles of Integrated Catchment Management. The project will design and target measures specifically to address local challenges. Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Charlie McConalogue, announced the total funding of €60 million for the project, which will run until the end of 2027. He emphasized the importance of the project in enhancing sustainable agricultural practices and making a significant contribution to improving water quality at a national level.
LAWPRO’s winning proposal for the EIP project takes a locally-based approach, combining farm-level actions with landscape features to improve water quality. Minister of State at the DAFM with responsibility for EIPs, Pippa Hackett, highlighted the project’s promotion of innovative best practices in nutrient management and its efforts to address critical gaps in measures to protect and restore water quality. Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage, Darragh O’Brien, also emphasized the project’s significance in this regard.
The Agricultural Sustainability Support and Advisory Programme (ASSAP) has worked with farmers to identify areas on farms in need of action, according to Pat Murphy, head of department, Environment Knowledge Transfer at Teagasc. The funding provided through the Water EIP project will help ensure that the appropriate measures are implemented in the right places to minimize losses, Murphy added. Conor Ryan, chair of DII, described the collaboration with LAWPRO and Teagasc as a significant step forward in their efforts to enhance water quality.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently identified areas where farms will likely need to reduce their application rate of organic manure nitrogen in order to protect water quality. The EPA stated that over 44,000 km of land requires additional measures to safeguard water quality, following a review of water quality requirements under the Nitrates Directive. Minister McConalogue stressed the need to reverse negative trends in water quality to secure a derogation beyond 2024. He emphasized the importance of not being complacent and acknowledged the challenges faced in meeting water quality targets under the Nitrates Directive.